Mar 9, 2022 - Economy & Business

Amazon doubles down on clean construction

Construction workers level concrete mix created with CarbonCure's technology at the building site for Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, VA. / Photo courtesty of CarbonCure Technologies.
Construction workers level concrete mix created with CarbonCure's technology at the building site for Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, VA. / Photo courtesty of CarbonCure Technologies.

Amazon is working with CarbonCure Technologies, a sustainable materials construction startup, on 13 of its current building projects, the companies tell Axios.

Why it matters: Amazon's carbon footprint continues to grow as it continues expanding its logistics empire across the globe. A small reduction in emissions from ongoing construction projects could have a substantial impact on its journey to becoming a net-zero emissions company by 2040.

How it works: CarbonCure is more akin to a software company than a traditional construction company, CEO Rob Niven tells Axios. It makes internet-connected hardware that adds captured carbon dioxide to concrete as it is batched at mixing facilities.

  • The injected carbon dioxide reacts with the other materials in the concrete mix to create calcium carbonate, which adds to the final concrete's overall strength and durability, according to the company.
  • Concrete producers purchase CarbonCure's device and plug it directly into their current operating systems in what amounts to a retrofit process at the plant, Niven says.
  • CarbonCure sells its technology to concrete producers who then go and use the newly decarbonized concrete mix on local projects like Amazon's buildings.
  • Once the building is complete, the emissions are a sunk carbon cost. Embodied emissions account for roughly half of a building's lifetime emissions by 2050, Niven says.

By the numbers: As of January, CarbonCure contractors have poured more than 162,000 cubic yards of concrete at Amazon's 13 construction sites in North America.

  • Using CarbonCure's technology, Amazon has saved roughly 1,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent of eliminating nearly 4 million miles of driving.

What's next: CarbonCure has used Amazon's Web Services software to develop additional technology that can capture an even higher share of embodied emissions in concrete creation.

  • It used the data generated from its ongoing projects and partnerships to streamline the environmental impact review process for new construction projects.
  • Carbon removal credits that are generated from CarbonCure projects can then be bought and sold in the carbon market, Niven explained.

Scooplet: CarbonCure plans to kick off its next round of fundraising in the next six weeks, Niven tells Axios.

Go deeper